Living The Quran
From Issue: 1040 [Read full issue]
Fear and Hope
Al-Sajda (The Prostration) Sura 32: Verse 16
This verse was reportedly revealed with regard to some Companions of the Prophet who would stand in prayer from after the sunset prayer (maghrib) until the time of the night prayer (isha), while others say it refers to those who pray the night vigil (tahajjud). Given that they shun [their] beds, the second interpretation is more plausible.
In this context, fear is understood to mean fear of punishment and hope is understood to mean hope for mercy. From a spiritual perspective, it can be understood to mean the fear of being separated from God and the hope of meeting Him. Al-Maybudi writes, "Sleeplessness and wakefulness at night are the cause of nearness to the Truth and evidence of the perfection of love, for the first degree of love is seeking conformity, and the attribute of the Truth is that neither slumber overtakes Him nor sleep [2: 255]." In this vein, the Prophet is reported to have said, "My eyes sleep, but my heart waketh".
As the reference to prayer is understood by most to mean the supererogatory night vigil, the reference to spending is understood to mean charity (sadaqah) beyond the required alms tax (zakah). Spending of what God has provided is extolled alongside prayer and belief in several verses (e.g., 2: 3; 8: 3; 4: 39; 35: 29), and human beings are called upon to spend of that which We have provided you before death comes upon one of you and he says, "My Lord, wouldst that Thou grant me reprieve until a term nigh, that I might give charity and be among the righteous!" (63: 10; cf. 2: 254; 14: 44).
"The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary" - Seyyed Hossein Nasr